Rubberstamp Legislature Surrenders Liberia's Resources

The Perspective
Jan 18, 2001

The Liberian Legislature, known more as a rubberstamp rather than a deliberative body, is being asked by President Taylor to pass an act that will not only adversely affect the economy, but cause serious damage to the country's environmental fabric. Majority of the lawmakers represent the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) and were never elected but appointed from the party list of candidates by the president.

The Act to be promulgated into law is to be known as the "Strategic Commodities Act"

By definition, the act shall include: "All mineral resources particularly, GOLD, DIAMOND, HYDROCARBON and any other finite Natural Resources Deposits such as, Natural Gas, precious minerals; metals and stones, now discovered or to be discovered in the future, which have economic and commercial value; and may be marketable domestically and internationally."

In providing justification and marshaling support for the creation of this act, President Taylor and company contend that "Certain unscrupulous individuals and entity persistently and consistently, extracts, mines, exploited, sell and exports the Strategic Commodities, Natural Resources and Minerals of Liberia without just compensations or benefit to the Republic of Liberia by evading customs, taxes and revenue collectors to the Economic, Political and social detriments of the nation."

If truly this is the intention of this act, they are either being naïve, self-deceptive or perhaps laying the legal foundations, which would provide the necessary protective cover for the further exploitation of Liberia's resources. It wasn't too long, in fact just last year, a senator - Tom Woewiyu - charged that secret laws were being enacted for the ravaging exploitation of the Liberian forests. According to Woewiyu, three important Acts (Act establishing the National Oil Company, the Forestry and Land Return Acts) were clandestinely "passed behind closed door, which is dangerous for this country... This is why the international community cannot take us seriously." This charge led to a furious exchange and verbal tirade between the Septuagenarian President Pro-Tempore, Keikura Kpoto, and Senator Woewiyu. The matter was killed and never revisited.

But what is even more troubling but not surprising is the sweeping powers the act accorded the president, of course, President Taylor. In section 3 of the act, it stipulates that: "The President of the Republic of Liberia is hereby granted the sole power to execute, negotiate and conclude all Commercial contracts or agreements with any Foreign or Domestic Investor for the exploitation of any of the Strategic Commodities of the Republic of Liberia. Such Commercial Agreement shall become effective and binding upon the Republic as would any treaty to which the Republic is a party, upon the sole signature and approval of the President of the Republic of Liberia."

Such breathtaking powers being granted surrenders an important constitutional role of this important branch of government, which is not only to enact laws, but to provide legislative oversight as well. This move is also viewed by many observers as a legislative fiat where laws are passed without citizens input.

With the country's forest sector such as the Sapo National Park and the Lofa forest, already being pillaged by business concerns like the Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC), this act that the legislature is being pressured by President Taylor to pass will help to further accelerate the destruction of the environment.